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July 8, 1999

State Supreme Court upholds statewide ban on smoking in offices

TUMWATER - The State Supreme Court has upheld the Department of Labor & Industries' statewide rule that bans smoking in private offices, ending a five-year court battle.

The high court's ruling today rejected a challenge mounted by the tobacco industry and three Washington employers. The court held that L&I was within its statutory authority and fully complied with the law in making the rule.

"This is a significant win for Washington workers, and we're gratified to have been in the forefront of the effort to protect workers from the health hazard represented by environmental tobacco smoke," said L&I Director Gary Moore.

L&I's rule protects office workers by prohibiting tobacco smoking in all offices except in specially ventilated rooms. When L&I adopted the regulation in 1994, it marked one of the first times that such a rule was adopted under any state or federal worker-protection law.

The rule was adopted after a lengthy process that involved a citizens' advisory group, a comprehensive public comment solicitation and a series of public hearings. The process generated a 45,000-page administrative record. The rule is aimed at protecting office workers from the health hazard of environmental tobacco smoke. The regulation does not affect restaurants, taverns, factories or other indoor work areas (except for the office spaces of those establishments.)

The tobacco industry sought preliminary motions for dismissal and a stay of the rules prior to their effective date in 1994, but the challenges were denied in Thurston County Superior Court and then upheld on appeals to the state Court of Appeals and the State Supreme Court which remanded it to Superior Court for trial.

Judge Richard Strophy presided over a five-day trial, ruling in the department's favor. The ruling was unsuccessfully appealed to state Court of Appeals, and finally to the State Supreme Court, resulting in today's ruling.

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